Health Care

'Vaccine nationalism': S/Africa to target citizens in COVID-19 jabs

'Vaccine nationalism': S/Africa to target citizens in COVID-19 jabs”

Major U.S. pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson said Friday that its single-dose experimental vaccine was 66 percent effective in preventing the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in a late-stage global clinical trial. The vaccine achieved 72% efficacy in protecting against moderate to severe Covid-19 infection in the U.S., compared to 57% in South Africa.

The company said that when compared with the placebo group, the vaccine was 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe cases, and 85 percent at preventing severe cases. But the positive news was partly offset by other results that showed it offered significantly less protection against the South Africa variant, known as B1351, which is spreading rapidly around the world.

But the efficacy was much lower in a small trial conducted in South Africa.

The vaccines from Novavax Inc and Johnson & Johnson were welcomed as important future weapons in curbing deaths and hospitalisations in a pandemic that has infected more than 101 million people and claimed over 2 million lives worldwide.

Concerns about fresh surges in the United States have also grown due to the presence of a more contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in the UK and news of the arrival of the South African variant on Thursday in SC.

This result means Janssen's vaccine met its primary and key secondary endpoints in the Phase III ENSEMBLE trial that evaluated the vaccine in 43,768 participants across eight countries, including the US, South Africa, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

J&J Chief Scientific Officer Dr Paul Stoffels said he suspects a type of immune system reaction called a T-cell response is playing a protective role and may be helping to prevent severe disease.

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Public health officials have been counting on the J&J vaccine to increase much-needed supply and simplify the USA immunization campaign.

"We knew that to a certain extent, but it's also better and very confirming that we can see that now in the clinic", Stoffels said in an interview.

The U.S. vaccination program got off to a slow start in December and has accelerated to around 1 million shots per day nationwide.

J&J has said it plans to deliver 1 billion doses in 2021 and will produce the vaccine in the United States, Europe, South Africa and India. "We look forward to continuing to work with our partners, collaborators, investigators and regulators around the world to make the vaccine available as quickly as possible".

The first consignment of 1 million COVID-19 vaccines, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, is due to arrive in the country on 1 February.

Bali Pulendran, an immunologist at Stanford Medicine, believes a single-dose vaccine can only aid the Biden administration's plan to increase availability.

Novavax is also discussing with the FDA whether its data is sufficient to apply for emergency use authorization.

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